Pre-K

Growing Reader

12 Class Read-Alouds Teachers and Librarians Should Check Out

by Janssen Bradshaw

Photo credit: igorstevanovic/Shutterstock

There is something magical about reading aloud to a group of children.

When I was an elementary school librarian, classes would come into the library bouncing off the walls (first graders, I’m looking at you!), thrilled at the change of scenery.

Then, I’d gather them on the storytime rug, settle into my rocking chair, and, like a spell had fallen over the room, the whole group would go silent as I opened up the first book.

And then came all the fun.

Gasps of surprise when something unexpected happened. Laughter at a funny line or silly illustrations. That almost inaudible sigh of satisfaction when the book closed.

And then the scramble to check out the copies of that book themselves, which was always the most gratifying.

The following 12 titles are ones that are certain to get you that same sort of mileage, whether you’re reading aloud in your classroom, the library, or at home to an audience of one.

  • Life on Mars

    by Jon Agee

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    Nothing is more fun for kids than feeling like they’re smarter than the narrator, and this book delivers that in spades with an explorer who is determined to find life on Mars, but goes home disappointed when he can’t find anyone. Little readers will be jumping out of their seats to point out the sneaky Martian on each page.

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  • Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion

    by Alex T. Smith

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    I love introducing a new spin on a familiar story, and Little Red Riding Hood is always a classic. In this one, set in Africa, Little Red passes all sorts of animals like elephants and monkeys on her way to her auntie’s house where she is confronted not by a wolf, but a lion! Little Red, though, is more than a match for the King of the Jungle.

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  • Nanette’s Baguette

    by Mo Willems

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    Mo Willems is ALWAYS a hit, and this tongue-twister about a little frog off to collect the daily baguette from the baker’s is sure to be popular. Also, you’ll be amazed at how many things rhyme with baguette.

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  • The Giant Jumperee

    by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

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    Reading aloud is fun. Involving your audience is even more fun, and kids love being part of a call-and-response read-aloud. In this one, where each animal attempts to enter the rabbit burrow but is scared off by a loud mysterious voice, you’ll have a group that loves crying out, “I’m the GIANT JUMPEREE!”

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  • Escargot

    by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Sydney Hanson

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    Even if you don’t do accents, this book is hysterical. But if you can read it with an outrageous French accent, it’s even better. My husband read this one aloud to our little crowd and his little French snail voice had us all rolling on the floor. This one was MADE to be read aloud.

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  • We’re All Wonders

    by R. J. Palacio

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    One thing I’ve learned about younger children is that they want to be involved with anything they see as “older.” I can’t tell you how many first graders (who could hardly read an early chapter book) checked out the biggest Harry Potter book they could find and carried it around all week, unable to read a word of it. Similarly, for all the children who see the wild popularity of the book Wonder (or the movie!), this is the perfect way to introduce them to the memorable characters and topic on their level.

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  • I Am Not a Chair!

    by Ross Burach

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    This one gives my children the giggles every time I read it. A poor giraffe is trying to make friends in the jungle, but everyone thinks he’s a chair! He’s determined to let everyone know that he is, in fact, an animal, but one thing after another keeps going wrong. The illustrations are hysterical, and the last joke is a complete winner.

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  • Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel

    by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

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    If you’d like to be the most popular person on the planet to a group of first or second graders, pull out the sequel to a book they already know and love. For every child who loves Dragons Love Tacos, whipping out this title is like Christmas morning. Prepare to be swarmed by your adoring fans.

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  • Last Stop on Market Street

    by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

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    I always loved teaching my students about the Newbery and Caldecott awards so they knew what those shiny gold and silver stickers meant, and this recent Newbery winner is such a fun one (plus one of the few Newbery books you could actually read in one library period). I love the positive energy of this book, the many details to look at on the bus ride that the grandmother and grandson take together, and most of all the chance to talk about how everyone’s life is so different.

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  • This Book Will Not Be Fun

    by Cirocco Dunlap, illustrated by Olivier Tallec

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    You know how nothing elicits laughter faster than telling someone not to laugh? This book is the same sort of thing. The little mouse narrator wants things calm, orderly, and … absolutely not fun. But when one creative animal after another appears in the book, the mouse might have to give up a little control. Can he do it?

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  • You Don't Want a Unicorn!

    by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Liz Climo

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    I know. A unicorn sounds like fun. Who wouldn’t wish for one if the opportunity presented itself? But you’re going to live to regret it. Because unicorns always want a friend and when a unicorn throws a party, well, you might find yourself UNWISHING for a unicorn.

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  • Les & Ronnie Step Out

    by Andrew Kolb

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    An odd couple pairing is always a hit, and this book about two shoes is perfect. Les is the straight-laced shoe who likes a clean sock, neatly tied laces, and order. Ronnie is perfectly content with dirty socks (or heck, no socks at all!) and likes to let loose. But as a right and left shoe, they have to work together.

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What other new books do you think are perfect for reading aloud to a group of young children? Let us know in the comments below!